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CounselorJules, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 779
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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Or Suzanne.My son is returning home after three

Customer Question

For Alicia or Suzanne.
My son is returning home after three years living abroad. My father, his grandfather, has scheduled surgery for the exact same day that my son returns. I asked my father to consider backing up the surgery for a week or two for two reasons. First, I am the one who meets with doctors, stays abreast of his progress, makes sure he is comfortable, during his sometimes frequent hospital stays. I have a husband, business and a teenaged daughter. Its a lot to manage all at once. Second, I am sure my son would like to see his grandfather, mobile, and out of the hospital for at least one week outside of the hospital. That would allow us one or more family dinners, etc. He refused. I am not surprised, the grandparents have not called my son for any holiday or birthday since he has been gone.(He has called them frequently) They also do not acknowledge special days with my daughter either and we live 5 minutes away. I try to take very good care of my parents when they are ailing, I want them to feel loved and cared for. It is becoming increasingly apparent that they just don't care much about us. For example, before my son left he had to be rushed to a specialist for his eyesight. I did not ask them for transportation help. My father made the comment that my son has two parents, and they should step up. (we have always been attentive parents, they have babysitted a handful of times only when the kids were very small) He wasn't going to break his appointment with H&R Block. He never inquired how the appt went. While I have driven through a blizzard to get my father to medical appts, home from the hospital, rushed him to the hospital while prepping for huge party, if they need it, I make it happen-- happily. I am beyond hurt. My father made the comment that he doesn't have to tell me anything about his surgery. True. I am ready to just chuck it all to the wind, wish him good luck and send him a Christmas card in December and give him the relationship that he deserves...none. That hurts me too, because I love and value family. The feeling is clearly not mutual.
The surgery is elective, and not an emergency. The condition was put off 2 years before all options were even fully explored.
Is it ever ok to just step away from unloving parents?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  CounselorJules replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for all of the information that you put into your question. I want to offer some words of encouragement. I do recognize the frustration of dealing with a difficult relationship with a parent. I think sometimes that we are driven by 2 main focal emotions-- fear or love. I am curious if you are simply so hurt by his "cold" statements that you just want to throw up a wall to protect yourself. It sounds to me that you don't want to push the relationship away, but that you recognize it is painful. I do think that you can establish boundaries that will help you to have the relationship that you want, but also protect you from any more emotional hurt. If you will bare with me, I will be sending you some more information about how to do this and possibly recognize the patterns of the family system that are most hurting you.....
Expert:  CounselorJules replied 1 year ago.
It sounds like you are trying to find ways to have a healthy relationship, but with a line or boundary that protects you at the same time. Family systems have all of these unspoken rules and roles and patterns that actually end up really hurting us if we don't understand them.... Murray Bowen does a great job of processing boundaries.For instance, an enmeshed relationship between a parent and child may look like this: Mom is a narcissist, while the son is codependent, “the person who lives to give.” Mom knows that her son is the only one who will listen to her and help her. The son is afraid of standing up to his mom, and she exploits his caregiving. Its a really terrible cycle. Typically people in enmeshed relationships have a hard time recognizing that they’re actually in an unhealthy relationship. Setting boundaries avoids the negative cycle of enmeshment: Saying that you feel trapped by your parent’s expectations only triggers their anger or passive aggressive reaction. They exclaim that “No one loves me,” which then triggers your shame and guilt, and you let them bulldoze your boundary. So it is quite manipulative. The disapproval discussed in your question, is more about the parents' anxiety and poor level of differentiation than it is about the child's behavior. You have to focus on your level of health, personal affirmations, and what you mostly hope to accomplish in order to establish these. You have to disallow anxiety and guilt from keeping you stuck in this abusive cycle. Just a brief overview :) A boundary is something that separates two things. Walls and fences are examples of material boundaries. Robert Frost has a quote that I like that goes something like "Strong fences make happy neighbors."Relational boundaries separate people and help distinguish your unique identity from that of another person. Your father's response to you is not a reflection of your own worth. Participate in activities to help him if you feel that your intentions are because you love him-- he may never actually respond positively because that may lead him to feeling too vulnerable. The family unit you grew up in is the training ground for how we learn about boundaries. I am not sure of the background specifically, but here are a few little details.... If our parents understood what healthy boundaries were and modeled these for us, we probably grew up with the ability to develop meaningful relationships that felt safe and secure. If our parents weren’t clear on what healthy boundaries entailed, chances are good that we’ve been guessing our way through one disappointing relationship after another for some time. Like we become really dependent or closed off from others.A healthy relational boundary between parents, for example, enables them to have a private life separate from their children. I wonder if your father feels that he has to set boundaries about his health or doesn't ask about the on-goings in your family because he is somehow thinking that this is respectful? So, boundaries function to keep some information and action private, while allowing other information and action to pass through. Think of healthy boundaries as a chain link fence; it allows enough permeability for the good parts of the relationship to pass through while blocking out the unhealthy parts.To me you have described a "disengaged" boundary from him, but you would prefer that he demonstrated an interest in how you guys are doing, because this would suggest that he "loves" you in the way that you most want? Here are some interesting reads about Boundaries and family systems. I think that you would feel best if you were able to have an honest and vulnerable conversation with him about what you feel that you need from him. You can do it in a way that is not blameful or offensive-- focus on your emotions but also focus on being solution oriented. Something like, "Dad, I really am glad that I get to be a part of helping you through some of your difficulties. I want you to know that I care very much about how you are feeling. I also want you to know that I could use the same support about my little family and how we are all doing. I offer my support because I love you. I hope that you recognize the intention in my actions and that we can learn how to reciprocate the actions. I want you to be a part of our lives, just as we want to be a part of yours."
Expert:  CounselorJules replied 1 year ago.
I know that you were seeking support from other professionals, but I do hope that I will be able to help you with your situation. Please let me know how I can further support you :)
Expert:  CounselorJules replied 1 year ago.
I received your other message. Thank you for the response! I will be looking for the other message whenever the tech issues are resolved :)
Expert:  CounselorJules replied 1 year ago.
I just wanted to check in with you and see if you were able to hear back from the support services that you needed :) I checked the other message too, but wasn't sure if it was working!

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